Basketball Nationals: Services win title after close win

Services emerged the men's Senior national basketball champions after a gap of nine years, with a close 73-67 victory over Uttarakhand in the final here on Saturday. Railways, meanwhile, routed Kerala 72-55 to clinch the women's title.

Services player (in red) attempts to score against Uttarakhand in the men's final.   -  M. A. Sriram

Services team after winning the final.   -  M. A. Sriram

Services emerged the men's Senior national basketball champions after a gap of nine years, with a close 73-67 victory over Uttarakhand in the final here on Saturday. Railways, meanwhile, routed Kerala 72-55 to clinch the women's title.

In the men's summit clash, India internationals Joginder Singh (26 pts) and Narender Grewal (20 pts) showed their class, while Uttarakhand - the defending champions - succumbed after a sluggish show. Joginder set the pace early by sinking three-pointers at will; Grewal was on target with his unorthodox one-handed shooting motion.

Services led 40-31 at half-time, before Uttarakhand - spearheaded by centre Murali Krishna (24 pts) and star forward Vishesh Bhriguvanshi (20 pts) - pulled the side into contention. A powerful drive and lay-up by Bhriguvanshi brought the deficit down to just four points, but Services kept their wits about them. In the final minutes, S. M. Situ and Jayram Jat both converted two free-throws each to shut Uttarakhand out. “We dedicate this trophy to the soldiers who lost their lives during the Pathankot attack,” an emotional Services coach Jora Singh stated.

Railways - far and away the most impressive unit in the women's field - once again dominated. The hoopsters befuddled Kerala by making the extra pass on offence, and stayed aggressive on the defensive end. Raja Priya guarded Kerala's scoring machine Stephy Nixon with aplomb, coming out on top in this crucial battle of centres. Railways' buckets came primarily from P. Anitha Durai, who was unstoppable from outside the perimeter.

The Kerala women, on the other hand, were not up to the mark. They failed to fall back on defence, leaving the door open for their opponents. P. S. Jeena, who has been in prime form in this tournament, took only 12 field-goals attempts, courtesy some tight marking. It was a disappointing end to the six-match unbeaten streak which had brought them this far.

The results:

Finals:

Men: Services 73 (Joginder Singh 26, Narender Grewal 20, S.M. Setu 10) bt Uttarakhand 67 (Murali Krishna 24, Vishesh Bhriguvanshi 20).

Women:

Railways 72 (P. Anitha Durai 16, P.U. Navaneetha 10, Sitamani Tudu 12, Smruthi Radhakrishnan 10) bt Kerala 55 (Stephy Nixon 17, P.G. Anjana 14, P.S. Jeena 14).

Individual prizes:

Most Valuable Player (Rs. 10,000 each):

Men: Joginder Singh (Services)

Women: P.U. Navaneetha (Railways)

Final standings (top-eight):

Men:

1. Services, 2. Uttarakhand, 3. Tamil Nadu, 4. Punjab, 5. Karnataka, 6. Railways, 7. Gujarat, 8. Kerala.

Women:

1. Railways, 2, Kerala, 3, Delhi, 4. Telangana, 5. Chhattisgarh, 6. Tamil Nadu, 7. West Bengal, 8. Punjab.